When your twenty-something son takes up fly fishing—at the cost of all other interests—there is bound to be some concern as a parent. This new fishing obsession was interfering with his college education, and baseball pursuits, not to mention preventing him from finding a summer job to help pay his way in the world. This interest seemed to come out of left field. Sure, we went camping and fishing as a family (when his sports seasons allowed), but this had become a rare thing in recent years as the demands of playing on more competitive sports teams grew. So, what was fueling this new passion, and was it just a passing phase? Would he come to realize that fishing is generally a “hobby” for most people and return to more traditional thinking about “life?”
No. Not at all.
It quickly became clear that this was not a passing phase; his interest in fly fishing continued to flourish and consume him.
As concerned parents, we worried about our son making it in life, that is, being a contributing member of society with relative success and happiness, not to mention paying his way, we recalibrated our thinking and switched from feeling discouraged over his college interruption to asking if this kid could actually make a living fishing. He was, after all, forsaking every other aspect of his life for the sake of throwing flies.
A late-night job search on “fishing” revealed there were indeed many jobs that he could apply for to make a living in the business of fishing—retail stores, hatcheries, sales reps, and, of course, guiding. Finding a job, however, was not his intent at the time; he just wanted to fish. It was his escape, his “What do I want to be when I grow up?” question being answered.
As other parents of millennial children have discovered, many of our young adults want to “follow their dreams” and “pursue their passions.” After all, that’s what we have encouraged them to do—right? So, the only option in this case was to embrace him and his new pursuit. After all, there would be no getting around this new love.
Walking with your child through tough decisions is not easy, no matter what their age—something that no one tells you will continue into their adult years. As with many things in life, we found a silver lining, but it was a struggle to see for a while. There was solace in seeing how quickly he achieved success with his passion, and in embracing the thought that this seemed to be his calling.
What parent wouldn’t want their child’s passion to also be their calling and vocation? And, as we often find in our own journey through life, new beginnings mean there has to be some endings. And endings can often be difficult as we let go of dreams and expectations to grasp onto something new. Quitting baseball and leaving college were difficult choices.
Being on the other side of those decisions now, and realizing your young adult is thriving, is not only worth it, but also rewarding.
Where has this journey taken all of us? In his quest to become a guide, he embraced the task of teaching his mom, dad, and sister how to fly fish. His patience and attitude held firm as we asked many questions, hooked flies on bushes, made mistakes, and yes, eventually caught fish. Today, he is a successful guide for several fly shops in Colorado. The daily grind finds him with a smile on his face, and a couple of customers in tow, as he heads to the “office.” He is connecting with people from all over the world—from all walks of life.
In the end, our son provided us with a new opportunity to embrace, which led to new discoveries about him: his ability to relate to people, teach others, and lead the charge on his life. New discoveries about ourselves: the importance to staying open to new ideas, new pursuits, and, most importantly, loving and encouraging others for who they are created to be. It is also a new opportunity as a family to have fun together.
And yes, we became hooked on fly fishing as well.